Published:  12:13 AM, 28 November 2018

Diabetes concerns every family

Diabetes concerns every family

Dr Shahjada Selim

Worldwide over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes. Most of them are of type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable (>80%) through appropriate life style management, i.e, regular physical activity, taking a balanced diet regualrly, and the promotion of healthy living environments. Families should have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes and must be provided with the education, resources and environments to live a healthy lifestyle.

Current picture is that 1 in 2 people currently living with diabetes is undiagnosed globally. It may from country to country being the highest in the African countries. Most of these cases are of type 2 diabetes. Early diagnosis and treatment are keys to prevent the complications of diabetes and achieve healthy outcomes. All families are potentially affected by diabetes and so awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors for all types of diabetes are vital to help detect it early.

Diabetes can be expensive for the individual and family. In many countries, the cost of insulin injection and daily monitoring alone can consume half of a family's average disposable income, and regular and affordable access to essential diabetes medicines are out of reach for too many. Improving access to affordable diabetes medicines and care is therefore urgent to avoid increased costs for the individual and family, which impact on health outcomes.

Less than 1 in 4 family members have access to diabetes education programs. Family support in diabetes care has been shown to have a substantial effect in improving health outcomes for people with diabetes. It is therefore important that ongoing diabetes self-management education and support be accessible to all people with diabetes and their families to reduce the emotional impact of the disease that can result in a negative quality of life.

Helping a family member with diabetes: It isn't easy for people to hear that they have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that cannot be cured. It has to be taken care of every day. People who have diabetes must make some important changes in their lives. To stay healthy, they have to learn how to monitor and control their blood sugar levels. People who don't control their blood sugar levels can develop serious health problems, such as blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure. But there are things you can do to help your loved one who has diabetes.

First, learn all you can about diabetes. The more you know, the more you can help. Encourage your relative to learn about diabetes, also. Second, be sympathetic. It can be scary at first for people to find out they have diabetes. Your relative may be frustrated with the changes he or she has to make. Tell your relative that you understand how he or she feels. But don't let your relative use these feelings as an excuse for not taking care of his or her diabetes.

Path to improved health: In addition to being emotionally supportive, you can also help your relative to make healthy changes. This will help your relative manage his or her diabetes. If you eat meals together, eat the same foods your relative eats. Avoid buying foods he or she isn't supposed to eat. Healthy-eating rules are the same for everyone, including people who have diabetes. Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar. Choose a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish. Encourage exercise.

What else can I do?

Learn how to recognize signs of problems. Learn the symptoms of a high blood sugar level (called hyperglycemia). Also learn the symptoms of low blood sugar level (called hypoglycemia). Understand that when your relative is very cranky or has a bad temper, his or her blood sugar level may be too high or too low. Rather than arguing, encourage your relative to check the blood sugar level and take steps to correct the problem.

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia): This often happens when the person who has diabetes has eaten too much, is sick, has too little insulin in his or her body, or is under a lot of stress. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): This often happens when the person who has diabetes has not eaten very much, has too much insulin in his or her body, or has exercised beyond his or her limits. 

Things to consider: Learning how to live with diabetes takes time. Your relative will have good days and bad days. Times of stress may be the hardest. When people who have diabetes are under stress, they may have more trouble controlling their blood sugar level. When this happens, try to help the person keep things in perspective and get back on track. Provide reminders to eat healthy and to exercise. If the person is feeling frustrated and angry, encourage him or her to be patient, and stick with it!

When to see a doctor: Symptoms of high blood sugar and low blood sugar may be mild and barely noticeable. Other times, they are more severe, especially if sugar levels are at extremes. Any symptom of high or low blood sugar over several days should alert you that it may be time to call the doctor. It could be that your family member's medicine should be adjusted.

A sudden drop in blood sugar can be a real health threat for people who have diabetes. If your family member shows signs of having dangerously low blood sugar, offer him or her some sugary candy. Then, call for emergency medical help.

Signs of dangerously low
blood sugar include:

* Dizziness
* Shaking
* Headache
* Blurry vision
* Rapid heartbeat
* Confusion
* Slurring words
* Loss of consciousness.

Dr Shahjada Selim
MBBS, MD (Endocrinology & Metabolism),FACE (USA)
Assistant Professor
Department of Endocrinology 
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Dhaka

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